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Silent enim inter arma Tribunals (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 30[]

Silent enim inter arma: Tribunals[]

Unity City
North America, Terra
Sol Star System
Republic of the Sphere

[Defense has Witness on the Stand.. ]

"...of course not.  Christ, the Word of Blake nuked three cities back in '68. We were fairly certain that they would not hesitate to trigger a spoilsport fire mission if we gave them the chance."

"Clarify this for the panel, Sargeant Major, your cutter was part of the intelligence effort?" asked Commander Seether

"Yes mum." Sergeant Major Tranh Mazerski looked nervous in the witness box, "We were."

"And you emplaced the kinetic impactor designated for Geneva, is this correct?"

"Ayeh Mum." He said, swallowing.

"On whose orders?" Haskens asked

"That would be Commander Ngo's instructions, mum." he said.

"Were there any countermanding instructions?"

"No mum." he said, as if wishing he could apologize.

"Why did you obey this order?" Seether asked

"The order was lawful, mum." he said, "Section Thirty six point five, subsection eleven of the Ares Conventions, mum."

"Your witness?" Seether said, "I'm through with my redirect."

"Sergeant Major, can you quote that passage?" Colonel Haskins asks

"Ayeh sir.  Would you like me to?"

"Please do." he said

The young man closed his eyes, and began.

"Section Three six point fife, paragraph eleven, 'permissible exceptions to the ban on use of orbital weapons on surface targets'..."

"Hold up right there, sailor, are you claiming that a kinetic impactor coming from Eleven light Hours out is an orbital weapon?" Haskins asked.

"Ayeh sir! It's even from outside the seventy five double K limit!" said Tran

"How is it an orbital weapon?" he asked him.

"Sir, it's an orbital weapon because everything in a solar system is orbiting something, sir.  There's no direct provision in any edition of the Ares Conventions for weapons deployed from one orbit to another, but in principle, everything in the Solar System is in an orbit with the sun, sir."

"That...doesn't excuse it, Son." Haskins said.

"Oh no sir! What excuses it is that the military target was intentionally placed in a protected area to make use of that protected status!" the young NCO announced, "It's like when you've got a shooter using a church, or when someone uses a school as cover for artillery positions!"

"The scale is bigger." Haskins pointed out, "The convention as amended in 2743..."

"Warn't ratified." Tranh said, "Votes on the Star League council aside, per the Star League treaty, alterations to the Ares Conventions had to be ratified by all signatory states. The only one what did, is the Federated Suns, and that warn't until 2764. It was defeated in the Free Worlds  Parliaiment by a fifty percent plus one vote, the Estates General tabled it to see what everyone else was doing, an' the Dracs outright refused. The only nation that ratified asides the Feddies, was the Terran Hegemony."

"Where did you learn this, was it in a briefing or-"

"Extension courses, I'm studying for officer's training, sir.  Can't be a nuke-tech or surface grunt forever, yanno."

"Oh-kay...and how many credit hours have you got left?" has asked the young man

"Fifteen credits until I get my bachelor's, sir, but Ares conventions was on the last set of tests before we deployed."

"I see...What did you feel when you emplaced that weapon?" ask Haskins

Tranh looked at the ceiling for a moment, then met the Prosecutor's eyes, "My company commander found me in the head on the support ship after the strike, sir.  She took my sidearm.  I was almost ready to eat it...sir. Had the showers going to wash the blood away and everything."

"Why?" the Prosecution inquired

"Because there were people in the target zone, sir.  People who didn't deserve what we sent them...people whose leaders put them there as ablative armor, sir...but it was still innocent people." his face tightened,  "They've got me talking to a chaplain weekly, sir, and I haven't tried to kill myself since."

"Is this common, Sergeant Major?"

"What. Guilt? Look ******, none of us signed up to fight an apocalypse!  Most of the Marines signed up to protect people, punish bad actors, and defend or avenge the Innocent.  I lost a brother on the Alarion recon, because they couldn't risk bringing back what killed that world. I knew it would hurt. When I input the nav data, I had weeks to realize how much I wanted to input the abort codes, and I did my damned job.  I did it because it had to be done, because they were set up to kill more innocent people.  That bunker complex was set up to run a second strike spoilsport fire mission and it was in the hands of the kind of people who would out of spite."

"You're assigning motivations, what gives you grounds?" Haskins asked.

"Have you ever interrogated a Manei Domini, Colonel? Because I've seen it.  They don't feel guilt, Colonel.  That part of their mind is the first thing they cut out when they install the cybernetics.  It's like interrogating a psychopath, they feel no guilt or restraint over doing what they do, to them, everything is justified.  That's the kind of people holding that bunker. Holding the keys to what we counted out as being over a thousand missile batteries scattered across six continents.  You don't give that kind a chance to pull the trigger. Just like when your sniper mission is to stop a hostage taker and the only shot you've got is through one of the hostages before he detonates to kill the rest? you take the ****** shot, and then you live with the guilt for the innocent you had to kill to stop him!"

"Would you, if you had the choice now?" Haskins asked.

"What?" asked CNO

"Stop it, send the code." Haskin explained to him.

"No sir, because I did my damn job. Ten billion people are alive to protest instead of dead or radiation sick." Tran said quietly, "but you know, that doesn't really make the nightmare stop. It just makes it a little bit bearable with proper support."

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